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The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

The Nation’s First Mother

posted by Donna Henes

During the last presidential election campaign, we heard scant little about the woman who gave birth to and raised President Barak Obama. This is a shame, as she was an extraordinary woman, who rose from a simple past to achieve great things in her short life.

She was born Stanley Ann Dunham in 1942 in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while her dad was serving in the US army. An only child — a disappointing girl — she was named for her father who had hoped for a son.

After the war, her family moved to California, Texas, and Seattle, Washington, where her father was a furniture salesman and her mother was a vice president of a bank. In 1956, when she was 13, they moved to Mercer Island, Washington, so she could attend Mercer Island High School. There, she was encouraged to challenge societal norms and question authority.

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Dunham took to these lessons wholeheartedly. She gravitated toward an intellectual clique, saw foreign films at Seattle’s only art-house theater, and trekked to University District coffee shops to talk about jazz, the value of learning from other cultures and the “very dull Eisenhower-ness of our parents.”

She questioned pretty much everything and became a budding beatnik. Her school friends remember her as “intellectually way more mature than we were and a little bit ahead of her time, in an off-center way.” One high school pal described her: “If you were concerned about something going wrong in the world, Stanley would know about it first. We were liberals before we knew what liberals were.” Another called her “the original feminist.”

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Upon her high school graduation, the family moved to Hawaii and she enrolled in college there, introducing herself for the first time as Ann. While a student at the University of Hawaii, she met a Kenyon student Barack Obama, Senior. Her liberal values allowed her to break the taboo of the time and date him. Within a year, they were married with the consent of Barack’s first wife, which was a tribal custom, though against the wishes of all four parents.

In 1961, at age 18, she gave birth to a son, Barack. She quit school to take care of him, while Barack, Sr. finished his undergraduate work. When he was offered a scholarship to Harvard, he left Ann and his one-year old son, to see him only one more time in his life nine years later. She filed for divorce, enrolled in school first in Seattle and then in Maui, where she struggled as a single mother and full time student.

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While still an undergraduate student, she met and fell in love with an Indonesian student, Lolo Soetoro. They married in 1967 and moved to Jakarta, Indonesia. In Indonesia, Dunham enriched her son’s education with correspondence courses in English, recordings of Mahalia Jackson, and speeches by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She sent the young Obama back to Hawaii rather than stay in Asia with her, an extremely painful decision.

Soetoro and Dunham had a daughter, Maya Kassandra Soetoro, in August 1970. In the 1970s, as Dunham wished to return to work, Soetoro wanted more children. She once said that he became more American as she became more Javanese. Ann Dunham left Soetoro in 1972, returned to Hawaii and to graduate school in Honolulu in 1974, while raising Barack and Maya. When Dunham returned to Indonesia for field work in 1977 with Maya, Barack chose not to go, preferring to finish high school in the United States.

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Although Ann loved and married two Muslim men and her parents were Christian, she, herself, was a free thinker. She gave both her children the holy books of the world’s religions — the Old and New Testament, the Koran, the Upanishads, Buddhist texts — and encouraged them to find their own spiritual paths. She was a firm believer in rigorous intellectual thinking and action based on compassion.

Ann earned a BA in mathematics in 1967, a MA in Anthropology on o1983, and finally a PhD in Anthropology in 1992. She then pursued a career in rural development championing women’s work and micro-credit for the world’s poor, working with Indonesia’s oldest bank, the United States Agency for International Development, the Ford Foundation, Women’s World Banking, and as a consultant in Pakistan. She was active in her support of Indonesian human rights, women’s rights, and grassroots development.

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Her career was cut short in 1994, when she was diagnosed with both ovarian and uterine cancer. She moved back to Hawaii to live near her widowed mother, and died there in 1995 at the age of 52.

Queen Ann accomplished a great deal in her abbreviated life. She succeeded in breaking through the barricades of a conservative 1950s upbringing to create an interesting, expansive, multiculturally rich life for herself and her children. This single accomplishment has already made a huge impact on our country and the entire world.

 * Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

 ***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

 

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Shero Queen of Afghanistan

posted by Donna Henes

Benazir Hotaki’s lifelong work began when she was appointed as a teacher at the Malalai School in Afghanistan. She also served as the headmistress and principle of several schools in Kabul. During her career as an educator, she was awarded numerous medals of honor, certificates and commendations. She was named Teacher of the Year four times and once Mother of the Year. She has frequently represented Afghanistan as a cultural and political emissary.

She is a pioneer of the Afghani women’s movement and has published extensively in defense of Girl’s Education in innumerable academic journals. She struggled to advocate for peace and reconciliation between warring factions during the brutal Taliban regime. But when women were banned from education and employment, Hotaki was forced to seek refuge in Pakistan, where she continued her activities in exile.

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Today Queen Hotaki serves as a head of the Council of Media at the Ministry of Information and Culture in Afghanistan, while at the same time railing against the systematic abuse of women and girls.

We’re caged. All doors are closed to us. All we can do is cook. We’re not human beings any longer. We only eat, drink, and sleep, like animals.

A very vocal proponent of equal rights for women in both social and political spheres, her main aim is to encourage women to take part in the peace efforts and reconstruction process in Afghanistan
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Our feisty Queen has a powerful ally in German Chancellor Angela Merke who has directed the German Army in Afghanistan that their main priority is to build and protect schools for girls. Queen Benazir needs all the help she can get, as the prognosis for the education for girls has been grim as of late.

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Resuming the schooling of Afghanistan’s girls became a much-celebrated post-Taliban achievement for the international community, but that success is now at risk. Six schools in the northern region of Kunduz have closed following Taliban threats in recent months. It has gotten so dangerous that the German army says it can’t protect them.

Afghan girls were forbidden to attend school under the Taliban’s rule and many conservative extremist groups continue to oppose the idea. Militants in southern Afghanistan assaulted schoolgirls this past fall – driving up on motorcycles yelling obscenities and spraying acid in their faces. Several schools have been burnt down to the ground
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Last May a girls’ school in northeastern Afghanistan was hit with an apparent poison gas attack, requiring the hospitalization of 84 students and 11 teachers who collapsed with headaches and nausea. The case marked the region’s third alleged poisoning at a girls’ school within roughly two weeks.

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Benazir Hotaki’s biggest supporters are the schoolgirls, themselves, who keep coming back to school. Threats, beatings, burnings, acid, nothing stops them from their dogged pursuit of education. Nothing! These are the future Queens of their country. You know they are going to change things!

* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

 ***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

 

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Shero Queen of Compassion

posted by Donna Henes

 
Miep Gies, the woman who sheltered the Frank family and saved Anne’s diary for posterity, was born Hermine Santruschitz in Vienna to Christian parents in 1909. In 1920 she moved to Leiden to escape food shortages and was raised by a Dutch family who moved to Amsterdam two years later. They nicknamed her Miep.

In 1933 she went to work as an office assistant for Otto Frank, who was director of a pectin producing company. Gies and her husband became family friends with the Franks and when Otto asked for help, they agreed to hide him and his family in a secret warehouse annex.

From July 1942 until August 1944 she brought them daily groceries and served as their link to the outside world. After 25 months in hiding, the Frank family was arrested but an Austrian SS officer spared Gies from captivity out of sympathy on the condition she promise not to flee.

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“There is nothing special about me,” Gies wrote in a book first published in 1987. “I have never wanted special attention. I was only willing to do what was asked of me and what seemed necessary at the time.”

Gies found Anne’s diaries in the debris left by the raid and kept them in her desk drawer without ever reading them. After the war ended, when it became clear that Anne was not coming back, she handed them over to Anne’s father.

They were published in Dutch in 1945 and in English two years later. It has been translated in 30 languages. As of this writing it is an amazon.com best seller in three categories.

This apparently inconsequential diary by a child, this “de profundis” stammered out in a child’s voice, embodies all the hideousness of fascism, more so than all the evidence of Nuremberg put together.
– Dr.Jan Romein, Dutch historian, 1946

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After the war, Queen Miep gave public speeches to keep Anne’s memory alive and she corresponded with people around the world. She also campaigned against holocaust denial and other causes. She received honors from several governments and institutions, and last year had an asteroid named after her by the International Astronomical Union. She died in 2010 at the age of 100.

Helping people who are in danger is not a matter of courage but from making a decision that every human being has to make in his life when he or she distinguishes between good and bad.
– Miep Geis

* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

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 ***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

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Sheroes of Women’s Herstory

posted by Donna Henes

As a follow up to our in-depth exploration of women’s relationship to power, I want to focus on highlighting some notable sheroes in women’s herstory. So for the remainder of Women’s History Month I will share the stories of some of our most admirable foremothers.

There have always been exceptional Queens, royal and otherwise — inspiring and motivating examples of monarchs, matriarchs, amazons, fabulous furies, sheroes, and prominent leaders from all cultures and walks of life — to serve as role models for us who are striving to mold ourselves in Her image of sovereignty and strength.

The mighty Queen, the great and wise, brave and compassionate woman ruler, the reigning commander of Her domain, is an expansive, expressive, accessible, energetic archetype who represents a mature female power, authority, responsibility, and influence worthy of our emulation.

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Warrior Queen Boudicca

When, in the first century AD, the Romans invaded her tribal lands in old Britain, the Celtic Queen Boudicca organized a massive general uprising by tens of thousands of men and women from different tribes in a united rebellion against the heavy-handed occupying forces of the Roman Empire.

Boudicca’s armies succeeded in capturing and reclaiming London, Colchester, and St. Albans, major cultural centers that had been Romanized. “It will not be the first time, Britons, that you have been victorious under the conduct of your queen, she proclaimed.

“For my part, I come not here as one descended from royal blood, not to fight for empire or riches, but as one of the common people, to avenge the loss of their liberty, the wrongs of myself, and my children.”

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Though the peasant insurrection was ultimately lost and the rebel troops were slaughtered, Queen Boudicca escaped with her daughters. In the end, they poisoned themselves rather than allow themselves to be captured, but the result of her campaign was, while not freedom, a more lenient Roman regime.

Brilliant Queen Hildegard of Bingen

In twelfth century Germany, at a time when women’s roles were heavily circumscribed, the Abbess Hildegard of Bingen found extraordinary ways to express her talents.

Born of nobility, Hildegard was raised and educated from the age of seven by the Benedictine nuns. At the age of forty-three, she became abbess of her community. In addition to her extensive administrative and spiritual responsibilities, she managed to pursue and excel at a mind-boggling array of disciplines.

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She was a, visionary, theologian, prophet, exorcist, healer, natural historian, hagiographer, founder of two monasteries, correspondent, confident, political advisor to kings and popes, poet, performer, author of the world’s first morality play, creator of a new language and alphabet, and composer of chants rich in mystical imagery and florid musicality that are popular even today.

A devotee of the feminine side of God, she once received a vision that counseled her, “Therefore pour out a fountain of abundance, over-flow with mysterious learning, so that those who want you to be despicable on account of Eve’s transgression may be overwhelmed by the flood of your profusion.”
    
* Please send me your thoughts about power. Also stories of your own empowerment. When shared, these ideas and examples are extremely inspiring to others. Thanks.

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 ***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

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